When it comes to playing for Bill Belichick, one of the things that typically shows a player’s football IQ is their ability to play a multitude of positions in New England’s complex system.
For Mike Vrabel, over the course of his career, he was one of New England’s most valuable assets as he did about everything that could have been asked of him. During his terrific career playing under Belichick here in New England, the former linebacker played offense, special teams and according to his former coach, pretty much every position on the defensive side of the ball.
Vrabel, who also scored 10 regular season touchdowns over his NFL career along two during their Super Bowl appearances, was known by his teammates as a “Swiss Army Knife” during his tenure as a Patriot because he could do so many different things. Belichick even went so far on Tuesday to call him “underrated”.
“Mike was a tremendous player,” said Belichick. “He was a very smart player, astute, played all the positions – special teams, defense, used him on offense. He really works at the game. He’s a grinder, tough, hard-nosed, good football coach, good football player, probably an underrated player, a great player. He’s done a great job in his role at Ohio State and then down here. He’s working with a lot of great people like Romeo [Crennel] and Billy [O’Brien].”
“Mike played a lot of positions on defense – played all the positons in the kicking game, played obviously tight end for us offensively and scout team,” Belichick added. “He played safety. He played every position on defense, literally. He loved football, practiced and played hard, was a pleasure to coach, a great football mind. He’s got a lot going for him.”
After his career came to an end, Vrabel started his coaching career at Ohio State as a defensive line coach back in 2011 and earned the respect of his players, including a moment that his wife pointed out when Vrabel got so amped up prior to a match-up against Michigan that he head-butted a player (who was wearing a helmet) and suffered a significant gash, to the point where the wound required stitches.
— jen (@JenVrabel1) December 6, 2012
From there he took the next step and joined the Texans coaching staff in 2014 and already he’s been a part of helping build a defensive unit that was ranked third in 2015 and number one in 2016.
That group gave the Patriots a tough time on Tuesday and ironically Vrabel’s now pushing players through a time of year that didn’t used to be his favorite. He said during an interview in 2007 that camp wasn’t his favorite time, but it’s a necessity.
“I’m not really thrilled about training camp. But once we start now, I’m in a good mood and I’m ready to go,” said Vrabel via the late Dan Pires. “I don’t mind practice. I don’t mind practicing, working and preparing. Training camp, I think, just wears on you a little bit, but it’s a necessity.”
Now it seems like Vrabel is having fun being on the other side of things and he’s handled the transition well. The results speak for themselves and should Houston’s offense eventually catch up with the success they’ve had on other side of the football, it won’t be any surprise if the Texans to continue to be a team in the mix in January in the coming years.